By Paul T. Choate
Jan. 3, 2013. Appalachian Ski Mountain will again host the Special Olympics North Carolina Winter Games – Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding competition on Sunday and Monday, Jan. 6 and 7.
More than 120 athletes and coaches from programs local, statewide and even from Virginia and South Carolina are expected to participate in this year’s competition.
Keron Poteat, games management team member, said she is hoping for yet another great event and said the hope is always for the event to improve from one year to the next.
Though there is a competitive component to the games, it is also a chance to open new doors for those with special needs.
“Our main goal is that everyone will be safe and have a good time,” Poteat said.
French-Swiss Ski College President Jim Cottrell first organized the Special Olympics Southeast Region Games in 1978 and the SONC Winter Games evolved out of that event in later years.
“We started the first regional games that was ever conducted in 1978 and we’ve been running that event ever since,” Cottrell said. “We were the first organization that did that on a year to year basis. We wrote the manual on how to conduct these events.”
When Cottrell says he and his team at the French-Swiss Ski College “wrote the manual,” he means it literally. After a few years of growing pains in the late 70s for an event Cottrell described as “very difficult” to organize at first, all the kinks were ultimately worked out. As a result, the event garnered widespread attention and Cottrell and his team literally wrote a manual outlining how to hold a winter sports event for those with special needs.
Cottrell said the skill range of participants to the annual event varies greatly, from those who have never attempted to ski or snowboard before to the highly experienced.
“Our primary function or purpose is to get the athletes to where they can develop for life — that they can [ski or snowboard] with families or come with groups and be independent on the slopes,” Cottrell said. “It’s a realistic goal.”
Cottrell also noted that it is important to remember that those with disabilities are just the same as other people and said he believes the stigma of mental disability “has been broken down pretty completely.”
The 2013 SONC Winter Games will officially begin with the opening ceremonies on Sunday, Jan. 6, at 2 p.m. Athletes will be on the slopes Sunday for instruction and practice runs from 2:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
SONC snowboarder Zach Butler of Raleigh and Alpine skier Stephanie Jamie of Advance will use the competition as their final training before heading to the Republic of Korea to compete in the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games Jan. 29 to Feb. 5.
Sunday’s events will conclude with a banquet at the Meadowbrook Inn beginning at 6:30 p.m. and a dance will be held from 8 to 10 p.m.
On Monday, Jan. 7, the athletes will put their skills to the test when the yellow, blue, black, green and snowboard divisions take to the slopes for competition beginning at 1:45 p.m.
Awards will be given after each division concludes competition and the event concludes at around 4 p.m.
Athletes competing in the SONC Winter Games – Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding represent the following counties/agencies: Alamance, Avery, Beaufort/Hyde, Buncombe, Burke, Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford/Greensboro, Guilford/High Point, Iredell, J. Iverson Riddle Development Center, Johnston, Jones, Lake Norman, Lee, Mecklenburg, Orange, Pasquotank/Camden, Wake and Watauga. Special Olympics Virginia and South Carolina will also have a delegations participating in the games.
For more information, contact the French-Swiss Ski College at 828-295-9311 or visit sonc.net.